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New COTA system requires new BuckIDs

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

Any student who wishes to ride the COTA bus might be required to obtain a new ID.

At the start of the New Year, the Central Ohio Transit Authority began requiring students to physically swipe their BuckID when riding the COTA bus.

“An easy way to check if you need a new ID is to look at the back of your card; if it has our old address at Lincoln Tower, you will need a new one,” said Karina Kurzhals, student assistant at BuckID Services.

A replacement card will be issued for free with the exchange of a current or old BuckID.

“If a student does not bring a BuckID in exchange, there will be a $20 fee assessed for the replacement,” Kurzhals said.

In addition to outdated IDs, there is also an issue of system glitches.

“My ID didn’t swipe at first but I didn’t end up having to replace it because it wasn’t old. My ID had just been set up by a website that wasn’t working with the new system yet,” said Angela Yerian, a second-year in exploration.

Students can obtain their new card at BuckID Services in the Ohio Union, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Students will not be able to ride the bus without their card,” said Elizabeth Berkemer, public and media relations manager for COTA.

Students must be enrolled in classes at Ohio State to ride the COTA bus for free with a BuckID. The new ID reader systems on the buses require that student enrollment status be encoded on the magnetic strips on the new BuckIDs; this information does not exist on the older BuckIDs. Only the Ohio Union is equipped with technology to properly encode COTA’s information, according to COTA’s website.

“Our fare box program has been upgraded, therefore the BuckID’s need to be updated as well so they will swipe,” Berkemer said.

Drivers are enforcing the swipe policy and are instructed to turn away riders who don’t have proper identification. The new system has been in effect now for more than a week and appears to be running smoothly, according to several drivers.

Students are adapting to the new physical swiping process as well.

“Swiping the ID doesn’t take much longer, you just have to know which way to swipe it and at what speed,” Yerian said.

The purpose of this program is to gauge COTA ridership among students for future planning, according to COTA’s website.

“The main reason for the policy is that we want to look at the activity among the students and make sure their needs are being met,” Berkemer said.

This activity includes ridership trends such as where students are getting on and what lines they are using most.

OSU and COTA have had a contract for 12 years now, which requires students to pay a $9 quarterly COTA fee, allowing them unlimited use of the COTA bus system.

“The contract that we have with OSU is to provide great service to students at a very effective price,” Berkemer said.

OSU and COTA both wish to gain information from the new swipe program.

“There have been questions between the university and COTA as far as how many students are actually using the bus,” said Tom Holman, assistant director of transportation operations (CABS). “COTA believes there is more ridership than they know about, and OSU wonders if there is much at all.”

In addition to ridership trends, the other main goal of this program is to make sure people aren’t taking advantage of the system and riding for free.

“The most important thing here is to make sure that the current students who are paying are the only ones that get to ride for free with their BuckID and they get the free riders out of the system,” said Steve Basinger, assistant director of transportation and parking services.

Some of the free riders include past students who still have their BuckID and staff.

“When a student boards a bus with their BuckID, the driver hits an override switch to show someone got on without paying. Because of this they have no way to track how many of those people are actually students and thus have no protection on their part regarding staff riding,” Holman said.

Students who wish to ride COTA should be aware of the new policy, replace old BuckIDs and know that they are paying for this privilege through a fee included in their tuition.

“It is also important for students to know when they swipe their ID on the bus, their card is not being charged. It is simply a verification that they are an active student,” Berkemer said.

This new swipe policy program will help COTA better provide service to students based on the information they will gain and it will also help rid the system of people riding for free, Berkemer said.

“No one should ride for free unless everyone can,” Basinger said.

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